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  • Renault summoned by the FIA on race fixing charges

    The FIA have summoned Renault to answer charges of manipulating the result of last year's Singapore Grand Prix in which their driver Fernando Alonso won. The hearing, an extraordinary meeting of the World Motorsport Council will be held on Monday 21st September in Paris.

    Rumours had engulfed the Formula One paddock since Saturday when Brazilian Television channel Globo broke the story that an investigation was underway. The FIA are believed to have hired the Quest private investigation agency, and work has been ongoing for some weeks.

    The incident in September of last year hinged around the then Renault driver, Nelson Piquet Jnr. crashing two laps after teammate Fernando Alonso had pitted. Nothing out of the ordinary you may think, however Alonso was on a very strange pit stop strategy, stopping on lap 12, despite qualifying a lowly 15th on the grid - such strategies are a huge risk even when a driver qualifies on pole and is able to build a lead in clean air.

    The crash brought out the safety car which gifted Alonso track position after his rivals had all made their later pit stops. The Spaniard went on to win the race ahead of Nico Rosberg for Williams and Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren.

    The race had significant consequence on the drivers world championship battle between Hamilton and Felipe Massa. Felipe had been leading the race up until the safety car period, and when the pit lane re-opened - it is closed when the safety car is out - he made his stop where his Ferrari pit crew made a huge mistake resulting in the Brazilian driving away with the fuel hose still attached.

    Ferrari were using their traffic light pit release system - instead of the more usual lollypop man - which is usually automatic, however because the pit lane had been closed many cars had come in at the same time, the system was operated in manual mode - where a team member on the pit wall presses the button to indicate the driver to exit. You will remember the result - he was released too early and pulled away with the fuel hose still attached. He eventually finished the race in 13th position and out of the points. Lewis Hamilton meanwhile came third, and of course he won the championship battle by a single point at the final round on Brazil.

    There are several strange coincidences involving the Renault team that weekend that have come under the spotlight in recent days. One report has suggested that they changed Nelson's setup between the final practice session and the start of qualifying despite the Brazilian being happy with his car, and setting good times.

    American broadcaster SpeedTV also noted that Flavio Briatore blamed the safety car period on Rubens Barrichello's retirement - he did retire, however it was whilst the safety car a lap later than Piquet's crash.

    And the video currently doing the rounds, that shows Piquet spinning his car on the parade lap, in a remarkably similar fashion to what happened 13 laps later.

    Bernie Ecclestone went on the record on Monday saying that he feared that Renault may pull out of F1 as a result of the investigation, and negative headlines about the troubled French manufacturer. While long-time Formula One journalist Joe Saward thinks that ultimately the outcome will be positive. He argues that the FIA being seen to take action and dispel dishonesty will improve the image of the sport in the long term.

Tagged with...
  • Crashgate
  • Singapore GP 2008
  • FIA
  • Renault
  • Flavio Briatore
  • Nelson Piquet Jr.
  • Fernando Alonso
  • 2008 Season
  • 2009 Season
Comments
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  • What color is Ferrari?
  • thedementor's avatar
    thedementor
    2:46am Sat, 5th September 2009

    I've never seen that video of Piquet spinning out until now (you gotta admit he did save it quite well though). I keep thinking this is all hogwash, but the fact that the FIA has called for a WMSC hearing means that they must have some pretty strong and damning evidence of some sort. Despite what people are saying about this being Mosley's way of 'waging war' against Flav, I don't think the FIA would want to put the sport's name into any more bad light after the massive political hoo-haas we've had this year already. It just makes me wonder if Alonso had any say in all this, or whether he had any knowledge of this and was a consenting party (even if he did not initiate it). Plus, with reports suggesting that the FIA are looking into other races outside of the Singapore GP, it just makes me wonder how long this has been going on...

Nelson Piquet Jnr surrounded by engineers shortly before the Singapore GP 2008 - © RenaultF1/LAT

Nelson Piquet was surrounded by engineers shortly before the race © RenaultF1/LAT

Position Driver Team Time
1 F Alonso Renault 1:57:16.304
2 N Rosberg Williams +2.9 secs
3 L Hamilton McLaren +5.9 secs
4 T Glock Toyota +8.1 secs
5 S Vettel Toro Rosso +10.2 secs
6 N Heidfeld BMW Sauber +11.1 secs
7 D Coulthard Red Bull +16.3 secs
8 K Nakajima Williams +18.4 secs
9 J Button Honda +19.8 secs
10 H Kovalainen McLaren +26.9 secs
11 R Kubica BMW Sauber +27.9 secs
12 S Bourdais Toro Rosso +29.4 secs
13 F Massa Ferrari +35.1 secs
14 G Fisichella Force India +43.5 secs
DNF K Raikkonen Ferrari +4 Laps
DNF J Trulli Toyota +11 Laps
DNF A Sutil Force India +12 Laps
DNF M Webber Red Bull +32 Laps
DNF R Barrichello Honda +47 Laps
DNF N Piquet Jnr Renault +48 Laps